2021 has been another highly successful year for Learning Exchange – Bank of Ireland’s Learning & Development initiative for the Irish non-profit sector. Learning Exchange is now well established as one of the flagship CSR initiatives in Ireland, and Bank of Ireland have been organising it in conjunction with Business in the Community Ireland for almost a decade.
Learning Exchange gives charities and community groups across Ireland the opportunity to avail of dynamic professional development training. It involves taking learning and development courses that were originally developed by Bank of Ireland’s internal Learning Academy (for BOI’s own executives) and bringing those courses to the non-profit sector. The courses are delivered by Bank of Ireland’s learning partner Accenture. For a nominal fee, representatives of charities and NGOs can access world-class training that will upskill them as individuals and help strengthen their own organisations.
The Bank of Ireland Learning Exchanges have been running since 2013. It was first set-up that year as a one-off event (then known as Learning Zone). Since then they have evolved into a series of workshop events held up to 4 times a year where Bank of Ireland shares its state-of-the-art business training from their learning academy with NGOs from across Ireland.
Among the courses that were available to the Irish non-profit sector during 2021 were topics such as Social Media Training, Resilience and Mindfulness, Presentation Skills, and People Management Fundamentals. In previous years, Learning Exchange has also offered courses on subjects like Negotiation Skills, Sales and Influencing Skills, I.T. and Finance, and Design Thinking. Learning Exchange has developed a reputation for providing top-class training courses that are interactive, highly engaging and that represent real value-for-money for non-profit organisations.
For the first seven years of its existence, the Learning Exchange courses were held in Bank of Ireland’s training centres in Cabinteely and Grand Canal Quay, where over 1,500 people from organisations across Ireland’s charity, voluntary and community sectors attended Learning Exchange events. With the onset of the pandemic, in the summer of 2020 Learning Exchange went virtual. Bank of Ireland had always received tremendous feedback from previous Learning Exchange courses and workshops, and the company was eager that – during the challenging circumstances of the pandemic lockdowns – that they maintain this fantastic resource for the community, charity, and voluntary sectors.
The great advantage of bringing Learning Exchange virtual is that it has opened it up to people from outside Dublin who might not have been able to travel to the previous in-person events. This has been reflected in the increased numbers from the Irish non-profit sector attending Learning Exchange over the last 18 months. During 2021 alone, 374 representatives of charities and voluntary groups attended Learning Exchange courses. 17 different courses were delivered through Learning Exchange this year, amounting to a grand total of 597 hours of learning & development availed of by the charitable sector during 2021.
For community groups and charities, Learning Exchange provides a valuable source of affordable learning and development courses. As the primary focus of non-profits is understandably on their clients and service delivery, these organisations sometimes have limited budgets for staff training. The type of training available through Learning Exchange (such as the courses listed above) potentially allows charities to market their organisations better, boost their fundraising activities and – crucially during the pandemic – communicate more effectively with their staff and service users.
Over the last decade, Business in the Community Ireland has supported Bank of Ireland’s delivery of Learning Exchange to the Irish non-profit sector. Part of Business in the Community Ireland’s mission is to link the business world with the world of charities and NGOs, so that the respective sectors can learn from each other and collaborate on addressing the most significant issues in Irish society.
Bank of Ireland is a founding member of the Business in the Community network, and they have been huge supporters of our work throughout the 21 years of BITCI’s existence. Business in the Community Ireland supports the Learning Exchange initiative by promoting the courses to our database of charity and NGO contacts, and by managing the registration and administration processes on behalf of Bank of Ireland.
The importance of initiatives like Learning Exchange aligns completely with Bank of Ireland’s Responsible and Sustainable Business Strategy. As Joyce Donohoe, Head of Learning at Bank of Ireland, affirms: “At BOI, enabling our customers, colleagues and communities to thrive is at the heart of everything we do, and our long-standing relationship with BITCI is very important to us”.
This commitment to learning and development – and sharing that expertise with the wider community – has become even more vital to Bank of Ireland during the pandemic. According to Joyce Donohoe at BOI: “Over the last 18 months, Bank of Ireland have focused on ensuring our Learner Management system provides the best personalised learning experience possible in a virtual environment. The ‘Netflix-style’ home page provides a best-in-class digital learning experience. In essence, at the heart of enabling colleagues to Thrive is our strategy of empowering colleagues with the tools to work and learn whether located in the same physical or remote working environment”.
Learning Exchange remains one of the outstanding examples as to how forward-thinking organisations like Bank of Ireland can transfer their knowledge and expertise to the wider community.
If your charity or NGO would like to be added to BITCI’s mailing list for future Learning Exchange events (and similar training initiatives that BITCI member companies are running), then email Joe O’Donnell – Community & Social Inclusion Executive at Business in the Community Ireland – at firstname.lastname@example.org